First he said that the ANC will rule until the return of Jesus and now recently President Jacob Zuma told party members that if they leave the ruling party they will incur the wrath of the ancestors. If you think Zuma is the only one to mouth such faux pas you are wrong. While launching their election manifesto last week, the ANC’s deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa told the gathered crowd in Atteridgeville that God and the ancestors want every South African to vote for the ANC in the upcoming elections.
Mr Ramaphosa is a businessman who is earmarked to woo the black middle class and those who are numbed by Mr Zuma. There was a view that his return to active politics would bring a measure of sophistication and civility to an ANC plagued by populist rhetoric, tribal tendencies and corruption. Mr Ramaphosa appears to be singing from the same hymn sheet as Mr Zuma and believes in the idea that his party has a divine right to rule.
How must we read these statements from such senior figures of the ANC and more importantly, how do members of the ANC who are Christian understand such statements? Do they see them as merely a joke or do they also believe their party is endorsed by God to rule South Africa? How are Ramaphosa and others able to discern the will of God in this matter and what does this same God say about the corruption that has engulfed the ANC? Is the corruption also part of God’s will?
I must admit if I was a member of the ANC I would be conflicted and embarrassed by the conduct of my leaders. I would be like a spouse staying in a marriage because of a commitment to the institution and the idea of marriage instead of a commitment to the person he or she is married to. As a South African I am embarrassed by the behaviour of our president and it would be worse if I was a member of his party.
He makes controversial statements which his party members have to defend. Many people think that he is being unintentional but I believe that he is being very deliberate about what he says. I think he keeps himself relevant through these off-the-cuff statements and his goal is to appease every constituency. For instance, when he speaks to Christians he will talk about the important role the Church plays but when he speaks to rural people and traditional leaders he will bemoan the negative influence of Christianity.
When he talks to people he perceives are Christian he will talk about God and when he talks to traditional communities he will talk about ancestors. It all depends who he is talking to. He was in Idutywa in the Eastern Cape when he made this statement: “People must remain in the party and try to fix things internally because those who do leave, they will attract the wrath of the ancestors, who will also bring that person bad luck” (http://www.timeslive.co.za/thetimes/2014/01/27/zuma-stirs-up-ghosts-at-anc-poll-rouser). He said this as he welcomed 100 people who had defected from the UDM and Cope. But how does a person decode such a statement to a foreigner or to a person unfamiliar with African culture?
To talk about the wrath of the ancestors is being very manipulative, especially after the recent passing of former president Nelson Mandela. As an African Zuma knows the African worldview regarding death and life after death and is using this to his advantage. Is this not the politics of manipulation? What is embedded in Zuma’s statement is the idea that the ancestors, whoever they are, are only appeased with an ANC rule and will turn against anyone who tries to unseat the ANC.
Not only is this idea disingenuous but it also encourages fatalism, the idea that people’s fate is dependent on some unseen spiritual forces. This is why the president talks about “bad luck.” He not only dances, sings, as a traditionalist, but he is also a superstitious president. We can’t read these blasphemous statements lightly. Remember in November last year Gwede Mantashe, the Secretary General of the ANC likened the tripartite alliance to the Holy Trinity and the ANC’s spokesperson, Jackson Mthembu once said: “God is with the ANC.”
I say these are politics of manipulation because God Himself is being used by people who don’t necessarily submit to Him and His commandments. He is a tool they are using to entrench their hold on power similar to how Afrikaners once viewed themselves as also having a divine right to rule. The problem with people who think they have a divine right to rule is that they struggle to relinquish power when such a time comes.